Watched Lecture 19: Politics and Literature in Wales of The Celtic World by Jennifer Paxton from The Great Courses

Lecture 19: Politics and Literature in Wales
Unveil the turbulent story of English conquest in Wales with this insightful glimpse into Welsh history that includes the unfortunate influence of misplaced loyalty to family that cost the Welsh their sovereignty forever. Then, look at Welsh literature, particularly the wonderful but enigmatic myths of the Mabinogi and the witty poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym.

I appreciates that she shares a few of her favorite pieces of literature from the time to give a flavor of the culture. Some denser history here which could be an entire course in and of itself.

Read A Song of Scottish Publishing, 1671-1893 by Shawn (
The Scottish National Library has made available a collection of chapbooks printed in Scotland, from 1671 – 1893, on their website here. That’s nearly 11 million words’ worth of material. The booklets cover an enormous variety of subjects. So, what do you do with it? Today, I decided to turn ...
This is more cool than truly useful, but I could see audioizations of data like this being used to surface and recognize patterns that might not otherwise be seen.

🎧 episode 12: Kleos and Nostos | Literature and History

Listened to episode 12: Kleos and Nostos by Doug MetzgerDoug Metzger from
The Odyssey, Part 1 of 3. Adventure, monsters, temptresses, and a whole lot of wine-dark Aegean. Learn all about the world of Homer’s Odyssey.

A dramatically different type of story told here versus the Illiad.

Juvenile fiction recommendations for Kim Hansen

Replied to a tweet by Kim HansenKim Hansen (Twitter)
Coincidentally I’ve lately been re-reading a lot of Gordon Korman (and reading books I missed in my youth). What is interesting is that in his 80’s opus a lot of more modern technology is just not there, which makes it much more subtle from a plot perspective. It’s not as if he’s got references to dead technology like fax machines that really takes you out of the flow of the story. Of course in a modern setting a lot of the kids in his books would probably be Pavlovianly-glued to screens, but I don’t think it’s a horrible thing to expose children to things they might otherwise be doing without a cell phone in hand.

There are only a few places where there are now seeming plot holes where a cell phone would have made all the difference (example: Artie Geller going missing in No Coins, Please!), but they’re generally so well told and so funny that I’m more than willing to suspend my disbelief.

In A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag where energy technology figures relatively prominently, it still reads really well, particularly because we’ve still got those types of technology problems. Even the computer teacher quitting when the computers crash and don’t save work because of power issues at school reads well in a modern context. Of course, this book is set on Long Island, so it might not have the Canadian “representation” that you’re looking to recommend to them.

I’ve only made my way through a couple of the Macdonald Hall series, but those are just good clean prankster fun, so modern technology doesn’t seem to have factored in for me. While most of Korman’s work (at least that I’ve read thus far) is very male-centered, these particular books have some good female representation and depict the girls at the school across the street as very modern and on a generally equal footing with boys, particularly with the antiquated, dotty, old-school head mistress as a foil. On this front, I’d give Korman very high marks in comparison with other relatively recent juvenile literature classics like Beverly Cleary who even through the 70’s was having main characters like Henry regularly say overtly sexist things like “Beezus is pretty smart–for a girl.”

The tough part of more modern juvenile literature is that a lot of it has gone much further upstream and spread out considerably compared to what we had available in our youths. There’s a huge swath of YA work that has filled in but which borders more on soft-core Danielle Steele a la the Twilight Series. Almost all of these are also written as parts of longer series of 3, 4, 7, or more books too, which can be annoying because the plot is often strung out in choppy ways. If they’re a bit older and in high school, perhaps John Green’s work may be appropriate?

If they haven’t come across them, I always like to recommend Holes by Louis Sachar; The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg; Lois Lowry’s The Giver (et al.) which I’ve been re-reading lately too; and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. All of these are generally great timeless literature, and I often recommend them to adults who may have missed them.

I’m also a fan of the more recent Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart which has some of the rollicking fun of Korman with some interesting twists, plotting, and has some well-rounded representation of characters.

A while back I read the first in a series of steampunk/pirate books called A Riddle in Ruby by Kent Davis which had a lot of interesting science, alchemy, science fiction, and adventure. While it wasn’t quite my cup of tea, it was pretty well done, entertaining, and may appeal to them.

Also similar to Korman, but even older to the point that they read as period literature, they might find The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald or The Mad Scientists’ Club by Bertrand R. Brinley highly engaging.  Sadly, while entertaining and with a lot of heart and cultural intelligence, they don’t have much, if any, female representation, primarily as a function of their authors and when they were written.

Following The Literature and History Podcast

Followed The Literature and History Podcast by Brad Metzger, Ph.D.Brad Metzger, Ph.D. (
Literature and History is a free podcast, covering Anglophone literature from ancient times to the present. It includes summaries, analysis, historical background and original music.
I’ve now listened to a couple of episodes and they’re truly fantastic! While I would have expected a lot more focus on the literary, I’m actually even more impressed that Doug focuses so heavily on the history and context of the pieces as a means of gaining entry to them and the times from which they stem. What a truly phenomenal bunch of work he’s done!

👓 The grand sweep of Literature and History | Indie Digital Media

Read The grand sweep of Literature and History by Richard MacManus (Indie Digital Media)
One of my favorite podcasts is Literature and History, launched nearly three years ago by a literature PhD from California named Doug Metzger. As the name suggests, the show is a history of literature - starting from the Tower of Babel origin myth and continuing on through Ancient Greece and…
Did someone say literature? history? I’m there! And best of all it looks like there are over 60+ hours of content to consume here!

👓 An Interview with John O’Brien | Dalkey Archive Press

Read An Interview with John O’Brien (
The following interview was conducted in-house at two different times, in 2000 and 2004. The purpose of the interview was to provide a very readable documentation of Dalkey Archive Press’s mission and history. It was amended in 2004, and likely will be amended again in the future, to reflect changes in the culture that have an impact on the work we do.
After reading this interview, how could one not want to devote their life to supporting such an institution?

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia


maybe also the word uncomfortable?

December 19, 2018 at 05:10PM



December 19, 2018 at 05:11PM

There is no sense that this particular novel has its place among-and should be evaluated against-a whole history of other novels.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:14PM

As with all of the arts, literature was once upon a time entirely made possible through patrons. This goes at least as far back as Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. They were able to write because their patrons provided them financial support. And this was of course true of all of the other arts. Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, however, literature and commerce got mixed.  

In some sense, there is a link between these areas of art/writing and funding and what we see in social media influencers who in some sense are trying to create an “art” for which they get paid. Sadly, most are not making art and worse, most of them are being paid even worse.

December 19, 2018 at 05:18PM

While many people say that such and such a book changed their lives, you can be sure that they could not tell you who published the book. The identification is with the book and its author, not the publisher.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:25PM

My models were New Directions Press and Grove Press.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:32PM

Michael Orthofer at the Complete Review  

December 19, 2018 at 05:35PM

Academics will probably bristle at this thought but, at least in relation to literature, all you have to do is look at the courses that are offered featuring the literatures of other countries. Not only don’t they teach these literatures, they don’t read them.  

We certainly could use an Anthony Bourdain of literature to help peel back the curtain on other countries and cultures.

December 19, 2018 at 05:38PM

I think only the philistine mind thinks that art needs a social or moral justification.  

Quote of the year.

December 19, 2018 at 05:46PM

A prerequisite for war, as well as bigotry, is that one sees a people or a country as a stereotype, as something sub-human or non-human; this is why politicians spend so much time trying to create stereotypical images for those countries they want to go to war with.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:48PM

Small publishers are oftentimes awful at getting their books out to people, even though of course the marketplace determines many of the limitations.  

December 19, 2018 at 05:51PM

Henry James Korn’s Novel Amerikan Krazy is Available for Pre-Order

Happy Birthday Henry!

The more I read of Henry James Korn‘s work, the more I love both it and him.  Nothing pleases or honors me more than to be part of the process of not only re-releasing several of his prior works, but to be part of the team releasing his debut novel. Toward that end, I’m happy to announce (on what I hope to be his best birthday yet) the availability to pre-order his forthcoming novel Amerikan Krazy on! If anyone loves it half as much as I do, it’s guaranteed to be a best seller.

I’ve helped him to edit and shape it for several months now and somehow never tire of reading his characters, his plot, or re-experiencing his never-ending wit or his truckloads of snark. Somehow, between the two of us, I think I’m always getting the better end of the deal in working on his book.  Either way I’m proud to call him my friend.


Henry Korn's novel Amerikan Krazy now available on
Henry Korn’s novel Amerikan Krazy now available on


Happy Birthday Henry!